Oppositional product names, organizational identities, and product appeal

J. Cameron Verhaal, Olga M. Khessina, Stanislav D. Dobrev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At their core, markets are exchange structures between producers and consumers, and products are a key element that connects them together. Many new markets emerge in direct ideological opposition to incumbent industries. Yet, the ways in which ideology affects products in oppositional markets are not well understood. We propose that when audiences cannot easily differentiate between products based on physical attributes, they rely on ideological discourse about the production process. We argue that product names, by embodying linguistically the narrative of this discourse, shape the appeal of oppositional products to customers. When products have names that are congruent with the collective identity of an oppositional market, they have higher appeal. This beneficial effect is attenuated (1) when audience expectations about what type of product should have an oppositional name are violated and (2) when a firm develops a strong organizational identity and audiences rely on this identity to make inference about the firm's production process. We find support for this theorizing in the longitudinal analyses of product appeal in the U.S. craft beer industry, 1996-2012.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1466-1484
Number of pages19
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Organizational ecology
  • Organizational identity
  • Product appeal
  • Product demography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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